And now, for the latest edition of the MSR’s “Looking Back, Looking Ahead”, where I … well, do exactly that.
Let’s look back on one team’s rise to a spot in the College Football Playoff:
TCU defeats No. 7 Kansas State in Big 12 Showdown: November 8, 2014
In what was likely their last chance to impress the College Football Playoff Committee, the sixth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs were focused on taking care of business on Saturday night against Big 12-leading, seventh-ranked Kansas State.
On Saturday, TCU made their statement.
At Amon G. Carter Stadium, the Horned Frogs, without top RB B.J. Catalon, took it to the Wildcats, allowing only 18.6 points per game on defense. K-State allowed a season-high 41 points and an astonishing 334 yards on the ground to TCU, who have built their Playoff case on their much-improved passing offense behind QB Trevone Boykin. And, while QB Jake Waters’ 291 passing yards and 2 TDs kept the Wildcats afloat for three quarters, it wasn’t enough to keep up with TCU, who dominated time of possession (35:18 to 24:42).
As for TCU’s offense without Catalon, Boykin and backup RB Aaron Green would make up for his absence in spades. While Boykin would put up respectable stats through the air (23-for-34, 219 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), his dynamic game on the ground is what won the day for his offense. Ironically enough, Boykin would rush 17 times for 123 yards and 3 TDs on the ground – including a highlight-reel front-flip into the end zone – against the Big 12’s best rush defense.
Green, meanwhile, would add 171 yards – including an incredible 65-yard run to the end zone in the third quarter – in place of Catalon. Green’s performance provided TCU with another boost on offense, and another option to lean on for head coach Gary Patterson should Catalon find himself sidelined again this season.
Aside from a garbage score allowed to Kansas State backup QB Joe Hubener, TCU held Kansas State’s offense in check, for the most part. WR Tyler Lockett and his monster game (11 receptions, 196 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown catch) was the only thing giving Horned Frog defenders fits the entire night. It was Lockett’s fourth game of over 100 receiving yards this season, and the star wideout is on pace for over 1,200 receiving yards on the year.
But the focus after the game was on TCU. The Horned Frogs, with this victory and one the week before over 20th-ranked West Virginia, have defeated AP-ranked opponents in consecutive weeks for the first time in 78 years. And with the eye-catching win under their belt, they have made as much of a case to reach the College Football Playoff as they are probably going to make.
The latest College Football Playoff rankings have come out. And much to the chagrin of Horned Frogs fans, this one’s kind of a doozy.
Apparently, the committee running the CFP thought that TCU’s blowout win over Kansas State was good enough to vault them to the No. 4 spot in the rankings. Elsewhere, Florida State was dropped to No. 3 overall, while Oregon has impressed the voters enough to put them at No. 2. Unsurprisingly, undefeated Mississippi State remains atop the CFP standings.
But, despite a late-game 21-point collapse to Baylor in Waco, TCU stands as the dark horse to make the College Football Playoff over SEC powerhouse Alabama, currently sitting at the No. 5 spot. And, more and more, they are convincing the national media of their worthiness to make the inaugural tournament.
There are no guarantees at the moment that TCU will stay at the 4-spot, however. Like it or not, the Horned Frogs still have the Baylor loss hanging over their head, and Alabama and Arizona State loom right behind them in the standings.
Now, with three games left in the Big 12 regular season, and no conference championship to make a further case to the College Football Playoff committee, there are only two things the Horned Frogs can do:
- Earn as many style points as humanly possible (and no stumbles or screw-ups) against three teams with a combined record of 10-18 (At Kansas, At Texas, vs. Iowa State); and
- Hope seventh-ranked Baylor will either stumble once more against either 5-4 Oklahoma State, 3-6 Texas Tech, or 7-2 Kansas State – currently ranked 13th in the CFP Poll.
The 5-5 Longhorns in Austin on Thanksgiving will present their biggest challenge (defense ranked 33rd overall in points allowed with 22.4). But if TCU can handle them the same way they handled Kansas State in Fort Worth, they may find themselves in their best position to win their first National Championship since 1938.
Let the games begin.